When reality fails to meet expectations

Survey - Expectations vs Reality

In a short qualitative survey recently conducted on LinkedIn and other social media, close to 9 out of 10 respondents revealed that the reality of their situations seldom matched their expectations. This experience would naturally discourage people from having any expectations at all, lest they be disappointed or disillusioned later.


Expectations are a natural part of being human. We generally want to be better off tomorrow than we are today. We will find ways and means to go forward in that direction, perpetually. The alternative is to become ‘misfits’ as society does impose all sorts of expectations upon us.


Perhaps society is the way it is with good reason. As the saying goes, “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” Life should be full of challenges and if we do not meet them head-on or shy away from them, then we cease to progress.  In work and in life, we will simply stagnate, and worse still, reek of jealousy and negative vibes as we see others progressing.


You can well argue that the pandemic has made us stronger, as businesses and as individuals.


Pandemic blues and woes


While COVID-19 caused major disruptions to work and life, it is interesting that by and large, our expectations did not diminish. The realities of the times just made us more aware and resourceful in finding ways to go around the obstacles. In the face of even the most drastic changes, we have been resilient, and in fact have taken the opportunity to reskill and upgrade technologies. You can well argue that the pandemic has made us stronger, as businesses and as individuals.


The advent of artificial intelligence and now chatbots are another recent development that threaten to upend traditional ways of doing things. Expectations and realities can now meet and fulfil each other better, using applications that help us to be more productive. However, could they also make us mentally less agile and creative?


We are already seeing the ramifications of these new inventions – cheating and plagiarism are on the rise in the schools and tertiary institutions around the world. Will the business world and the contemporary world of work be able to handle the new applications that are turning the world around on its head? Time will tell.


Imagination vs Knowledge


Albert Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”


Expectations are imaginations too in a way. Reality on the other hand is like the knowledge that is all around us. Einstein could not have been more spot-on about the reality of things.


Thus, is it not better for us all to face the realities of life and at work with some imagination, even though the probabilities may suggest that much of it may not be realised, at least exactly as the way we expect them to?


So, be bold enough to imagine, my friends, and to expect great things, for without those inclinations, none of humanity’s progress, since time immemorial, would have come to pass.


This article is an abbreviated version. If you would like to read the full article, email: Dr. Siva Mahendran.


Dr Siva Mahendran Dr Siva Mahendran is an English lecturer and a counsellor with over 35 years’ experience in the education sector. He has given talks and workshops, locally and internationally and is a published author of two books and a poet of merit

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